Saturday, September 6, 2008

Shabbat: the sacred and the profane

Most of the talk about the state of the religious-secular divide in Jerusalem these days is about the increasing dominance of the ultra-Orthodox over the city. But, it appears to me that the secular elements have been asserting themselves as well. As Minna and I were walking from Shabbat services this morning to where we were having lunch, I was surprised to see a restuarant -- the "Meat Burger" -- open on Emek Refaiam. This non-kosher establishment, from what I understand, opened up since the last time I was in Jerusalem back in 2001. Here is an excerpt from a glowing review I found on the Internet:

As a Jerusalem citizen, I can tell you for sure, visiting in Jerusalem and not eating Evo Meat Burger, is like visiting Paris and not climbing the Eifel Tower

Despite this reviewer's opinion, I will not be visiting the Meat Burger, alas -- it's not kosher.


The services we went to were themselves an expression of some of the push-back against the ultra-Orthodox that has been going on. In the Orthodox world, itself, there have been a series of efforts to try and stretch practice to allow woman to participate more.

Me and Minna haven't gotten to any of those minyanim in Jerusalem, yet, but this morning we went to a traditional-egalitarian minyan that is being held in a local school here. The egalitarian part of traditional-egalitarian means that men and woman can sit together and share equally in things like leading prayer and reading Torah. The traditional part means that the service is otherwise more or less the same thing you would find in an Orthodox minyan. This is pretty much what I prefer in prayer services and is very much in line with the Conservative Movement of which I am a part.

The minyan is called Kehilat Kedem and its email address is I think we'll be going there, again. It's a great thing that this kind of alternative is starting to become available here.


Besides finding an open restaurant on Emek Refaim another thing that has suprised me is how many cars are on the street on Shabbat here now. It's still a very small amount, but it seems to me to be much more than it was back in 2000-2001. . . . It makes me sad that I cannot just walk down the middle of most of the streets on Shabbat without having to keep an eye out for a car coming by.


After Shabbat, Minna introduced me to an Israeli television show that focuses on people struggling with their own personal secular-religious divides. It's a sort of "Sex in the City" kind of show where the characters are young, Orthodox Israelis who live -- and date -- in the neighborhood me and Minna live in. It's called סרוגים/srugim, which literally means "knitted" and refers to the kind of kippot the characters wear (srugim identify one as religious, but not among the ultra-Orthodox). Here are two of the characters meeting at a speed-dating session:

The web site for Srugim also has this hillarious "man-on-the-street" feature called "Kosher or not Kosher":

Here, the reporter is asking a woman whether it is alright -- "kosher" -- for women to wear pants! (Some Orthodox Jews believe that only men are permitted to wear pants, and that women should wear dresses.)

I really enjoyed watching this show.

Shavua tov!

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